The Season in Three Games

By Steven DiMiceli
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If the 2010-2011 Duquesne men's basketball season were a roller coaster at Kennywood, you'd have to wait 45 minutes to an hour to ride it on a Saturday afternoon.There have been exhilarating highs like the winning streak and a couple of unexpectedly lopsided road victories early in the season and devastating lows like the Penn St/WVU  losing streak and the Bona buzzer beater. The question on a lot of people's minds right now is will assent on the other side of the huge 11 game winning streak be deceptively small, a giant pitfall or just the beginning of a bumpy ride the rest of the way.

Given the nature of our conference and the Dukes fortunes so far in league play, the next three games are setting up to be the most crucial tests of the season. Each one is a big game in its own right and cumulatively, I think that how we fair will give us a pretty strong indication of what we should expect in the post season.

In spite of two games on the road, one in Dayton, and a tough test at the AJP, I see us as a slight favorite in each game. I think we're catching two of the three teams at the right time.  Given Umass's recent form and some questions about the health of key players, I suspect that we have about a 70% chance to win tonight. Inspite of Dayton being the most difficult travel away destination in the league save for maybe the Cintas Center, I see us having about a 55% chance of winning there due in part to how successful we were against them at the CEC, and their poor play of late. URI is 1-2 against the top of league including a road win against Richmond already under their belt. In non conference, they have road losses to Quinpiac, Providence, Florida and of course of a 12 point loss to Pitt to open their season. I will not underestimate them though and I see them as a dangerous team with a lot of play for. They're the best team talent wise during the stretch IMO. For that, I only give us about a 60% chance to win in spite of the game being at home.

So what does our performance in this stretch mean?

3-0  (23% chance)

This would be a huge outcome and would really set the Dukes up for the rest of the season. Our dull hopes for an at large bid will be quite a bit brighter. Our best chance at this point will be to go 6-0 the rest of the way in regular season play. This certainly will be a start we need and we would have a strong chance of going into Richmond on a 5 game winning streak. 3-0 also gives us some insurance for other post season positions. It would give us an 11 win conference record which should secure us a place in Atlantic City and a first round bye because of the tie break and the minimum 2 game lead against URI. It would also all but lock up an NIT bid and have us heading in the right direction for an NIT home game.

2-1 .(45% chance)

More likely than not, we're going to drop at least one game. We're still in pretty good shape if this happens. We still get at least one quality win and as long as the loss is not to URI, we still are in very good shape for the bye. However, to get an NCAA at large, we'd have to run off 5 or 6 straight to get to the A-10 finals for any real chance. One loss in this stretch virtually kills our chances. However, the NIT and an NIT home game still look very promising.

1-2 . (27% chance)

The season is not over yet in this scenario but the Dukes make it really difficult for themselves. In all likelihood, we're playing a game at the AJP to start the A-10 tournament and we'll need to win the whole thing to dance. An at large bid is all but certainly dead with 2 regular season losses. The only way we control our destiny for a bye is if URI is our one win. NIT is still a strong possibility but we will would still have to get 2 more wins the rest of the way to get a bid and probably 3 if Dayton or URI aren't the one win. To be honest, if they go 1-2 the pressure may be off to a certain extent because the NIT is likely still safe while the NCAA at large isn't even a thought.

0-3 (5% chance)

Had you asked me to guess the percentage of this happening after the Dayton game. I probably would've laughed at you and said less than 1%. Things change and if the Dukes can't change their momentum and lose to Umass tonight, we're looking at about an 18% chance of this happening. Let's hope they don't so we don't even have to talk about it after today. It's still a long shot to happen, but it does deserve some discussion. If we do go 0-3  look for a few things to happen.

1) The chance of a bye is gone and if the freefall continues into the final three games, an a-10 home game is even in jeopardy. There is still less than a half of one percent of this happening in my opinion, but if we lose out, we're going back to the Reilly Center.

2) NIT becomes a question mark and suddenly there is a ton of pressure to win the final  3 and one in AC. We'd come away from this stretch with no road or quality wins and we'd need to build or resume to compensate.

3) Expect a thread or two about the Dukes play down the stretch to crop up.

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